Thursday, May 6, 2010
'Brixton Beach'- Review
Publisher: Harper Collins
Length: 408 Pages
Opening Line: 'Only the young can feel this way.'
'Brixton Beach' is another 'TV Book Club' recommendation. It tells the story of Alice Fonseka, a child who is born in Sri Lanka in the 1970's, by her Singhalese mother and her Tamil father.
When violence and racism breaks out on the island, Alice and her parents are forced to leave the beautiful Sri Lankan landscape, their family and Alice's beloved grandparents, for the grey skies of London. Through her art, Alice unlocks her suppressed memories of Sri Lanka and it helps Alice comes to terms, with her complex identity.
In my opinion, 'Brixton Beach' is a book of two halves. The first half, when Alice is in Sri Lanka, Roma Tearne uses all of the senses to transport the reader to the exotic landscape of the island. I felt that the pace was even enough, to ensure that the characters and their relationships with each other, were very well developed. In particular, I thought that the relationship between Alice and her grandfather was heartfelt and tender and as a reader. This part of the novel drew me into the stories and into the characters, which was effective in my opinion.
The plot itself, felt like something I had read before. In fact, elements within it made me think of Monica Ali's novel 'Brick Lane'. However, what differentiated this novel from 'Brick Lane',was Roma Tearne's use of description. The visual imagery that she conjures up in Sri Lanka was so beautiful and succinct, that I could picture everything Roma Tearne was writing about in my mind. I can tell that her artistic background influenced her ability to paint a picture of the surroundings through her writing, because everything is so vivid.
Also something that I thought was interesting, was the way in which Tearne explores the constant shift and change, within a person's identity. Throughout the novel, she illustrates how the notion of identity is not just shaped through time but the landscape in which you live. It was interesting to see how Alice struggled with the fact that parts of who she was as a child, were being replaced with other parts of identity, influenced by her experiences in London.
The second half of the book when Alice was in London, is the thing that lets this novel down in my opinion.
I felt like the story became undeveloped, there was no mention of several earlier, central characters. The plot felt rushed and jumpy, it read more like a montage compared to the first half of the book. I do realise that it wasn't possible to fill in everything that happened within Alice's life, but I found that the previous development in plot and characterisation within the first part of the book, was wasted.
Towards the end of the novel, the story moved towards Alice's relationship with a medic named Simon and that is where the book became extremely disappointing. This part within the book read more like a Chick-Lit novel, rather than the interesting book it had started out to be.
Their relationship in my opinion, was unrealistic and over sentimental. Call me hard hearted, but I just didn't care as much about what would happen to these two people, compared to the relationship Roma Tearne had developed, between Alice and her grandfather.
This could have been a fantastic novel. However I feel disappointed and exasperated, that I can't say that. Due to the inconsistencies within the plot's pace,the poor character development within the second half of the novel and the over sentimental ending, I can only say that 'Brixton Beach', is a mediocre novel.
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